Every generation owns its "Good Old Days" stories.
Our parents and grandparents told us stories about their experiences of those days on many occasions. Their memories included living through the Great Depression, World War ll, and rations. Our parents grew up without television, but instead listened to radio shows...like Little Orphan Annie, The Lone Ranger, or sitting in a dark room listening to the creaking door sound of The Inner Sanctum and the horrifying story that accompanied it. Both generations walked uphill to school...and uphill going home. Life was hard for them, but they seemed to find silver linings from those years gone by.
Being a kid the 60s was a whole lot different than kids have it now.
In the morning I was greeted with the shades being raised and a cheerful, "Good morning Sunshine." I'd washed up, put on the standard white tee shirt, white socks, a pair of blue jeans, and my P.F. Flyers (Johnny Quest ad) sneakers. I'd then shovel down a bowl of corn flakes, a piece of Wonder Bread toast with real butter, and a glass of really gross pulp filled Home Orange Juice. I used to ask my mom to strain the pulp out, and she would say, "No." After that, I brushed my teeth and was immediately ushered out the back door. "Go out and play," my mom would say, as she held the flimsy double screen door open for me. I was down the blue wooden porch stairs before the heavy spring on the door slammed it shut with a loud bang.
I would stand at the bottom of the stairs at an early 8 a.m., the sun would be shining, the air smelled clean, and it was quiet. I'd race across my grandfather's grassy city lot sized backyard to the wooden picket fence to the t-shaped laundry pole. On that, I would jump up, and swing a bit on that.
Just outside the backyard was the alley and about 15 feet across was my best friends father's apartment building. I would cup my hands to my mouth and yell out...."Frankie...Annie...can you come out to play?" with absolutely no embarrassment. After a few moments, the first-floor window would open, and their mom would let me know they were eating breakfast and would be out soon. I waited patiently, and when they came out...it was smiles for all.
We played outside every single day from morning to dark unless one of us was sick or the weather was bad, which wasn't often. The three of us were the closest of friends.
We didn't have the toys have nowadays to play with. We used our imagination and created our own games. Some of our daily games (which are all copyright protected) included:
Pinners which was based on baseball. The thrower is the batter. They toss a rubber ball against a ledge on a wall, and your opponent had to catch it before it bounced to get an out. But...if not...1 bounce was a single; 2 bounces was a double; 3 bounces was a triple, and a ball hit all the way across the street was a home run. One of my memories was getting chased from the church that had a great ledge to toss against only to come back after the keeper left.
Dodge Bikes: (Not for the faint of heart or Snowflakes) We set up boundaries in an allotted area in the alley. In that area, a single dodger would try not to get hit by bicycles. Don't worry, the area was so small, not enough speed was built up to do any real injury.
Mush: This was my favorite game. It was yet another alley game. Again, we set up boundaries...usually telephone pole to telephone pole. The Tosser throws a softball up in the air, and everyone scatters except for a name that is called out. That person is now the Thrower and has to retrieve the ball. Everyone is still running wildly until the ball is retrieved and the thrower screams "FREEZE!" He or she got three steps toward someone who was now a Target and threw the ball at any part of their body except the head. The Target was not allowed to jump or dodge the throw. They had to catch the ball. If the target did not catch the ball, they were Out and would sit on the concrete basement ledge waiting. Then the thrower would move to their next target with the goal of getting everyone out to win. BUT, if a target caught the ball, all the people the thrower got out are back in the game!!! This went on until one person got everyone out. Hours of absolute fun. (Again...not a game for Snowflakes)
War: Yeah...We were 60s kids. We used sticks and pretended they were guns and killed each other. This game had no boundaries (not like our real handcuffed military), and we ran around cars, cut through backyards, jumped fences...etc. Frankie was always best at dying. When shot, he would grab his chest...climb up on the wall by the church and fall into the bushes down below. (He died for real ten years ago at the young age of 50)
Alley Baseball: Everyone played-- even the kids we 10-year-olds considered "little." We didn't have a "league" ball, so we used our ever ready softball. When I say ever ready...even when the cover was torn off, we still used it.
The alley wasn't the largest place to play, but we made due. Sometimes we played in my grandfather's yard not thinking about the ramifications of a fly ball going across the alley into the apartment building. We were warned many times not to play baseball in the yard.
Have you ever seen a ball move in slow motion and kids move at the speed of sound at the same time? Well, I did. One day we were playing in my grandfather's yard. I hit a fly ball that was high and deep...back, back, back..and up, up, up. I watched in horror as the ball went through a bathroom window. I stood stunned, my body and mind frozen. My friends were darting around like the Flash splitting up into atoms. They were gone before the glass hit the ground. The next words I heard came from nowhere...but heard many times before from the neighborhood residents that all seemed to know my grandfather and father. "I AM GOING TO TELL YOUR GRANDFATHER." Needless to say, I didn't do so well the rest of the day waiting for the inevitable, which, I can assure you...did happen.
Ah....stories of the Old Days. Fun, goofy, not a care in the world. We grow up and become adults. Life becomes serious. We get wrapped up in our family, work, and politics. Some of us are able to keep a part of our lives separate from adulthood, but are we then considered "Childish?" Oh...to be childish for awhile again. To play these games in clean alleys, hopefully, our bodies allowing us to do so.
We can do something...we can share our games we used to play with our kids, and teach them about enjoying and savoring youth, for it is only a blink in time. We must encourage them to use their imagination-- to turn off the television, and turn on old radio programs and create a game. They may not like it now...but they will thank you someday.
READ MORE FROM MY CRANIUM BY DAVID HERMAN